- 1 Aravels - On Dalish landships
- 2 The Dales
- 3 The Long Walk
- 4 Uthenera
- 5 Vallaslin: Blood Writing
- 6 The History of the Drydens
- 7 The History of Soldier's Peak: Chapter 1
- 8 The History of Soldier's Peak: Chapter 2
- 9 The History of Soldier's Peak: Chapter 3
- 10 The History of Soldier's Peak: Chapter 4
- 11 The Anderfels
- 12 Antiva
- 13 The Avvars
- 14 The Bannorn - The Bannorn's role in Fereldan politics
- 15 The Brecilian Forest - A story of the Brecilian Forest
- 16 Thedas Calendar
- 17 The Chasind - On the Chasind people
- 18 The City Elves
- 19 Alienage Culture
- 20 Arlathan: Part One
- 21 Arlathan: Part Two
- 22 The Dalish Elves
- 23 Denerim - On the city of Denerim
- 24 Dragon Cults - On the worship of dragons
- 25 History of Ferelden: Chapter 1
- 26 History of Ferelden: Chapter 2
- 27 Culture of Ferelden
- 28 Dogs in Ferelden
- 29 Geography of Ferelden
- 30 The Free Marches
- 31 Politics of Ferelden
- 32 The Frostback Mountains
- 33 Gwaren
- 34 Highever
- 35 Lake Calenhad
- 36 Lothering
- 37 King Maric Theirin
- 38 Nevarra
- 39 The Noble Families of Ferelden
- 40 The Old Gods - On the Old Gods
- 41 The Orlesian Empire
- 42 The Casteless
- 43 The Castes
- 44 Life in Orzammar
- 45 Deep Roads
- 46 The City of Orzammar
- 47 Cut to Kal Sharok
- 48 Legion of the Dead
- 49 House Aeducan, Shield of Orzammar
- 50 The Paragons
- 51 Orzammar Politics
- 52 The Proving
- 53 Dwarven Faith
- 54 Stalata Negat
- 55 Orzammar History: Chapter One
- 56 Orzammar History: Chapter Two
- 57 Ostagar
- 58 Par Vollen: The Occupied North
- 59 The Qunari
- 60 Redcliffe
- 61 Rivain
- 62 The Tevinter Imperium
- 63 Legend of the Juggernaut
- 64 Geography of Thedas
- 65 Vhenadahl: The Tree of the People
- 66 The Grey Wardens
- 67 The Korcari Wilds
- 68 Darkspawn
- 69 The Blights - A letter from Paragon Aeducan to his wife
Aravels - On Dalish landships
If The Warden is Dalish...
"We are the Dalish: keepers of the lost lore, walkers of the lonely path.
We are the last elvhen. Never again shall we submit."
--The Oath of the Dales
Someone once told me that humans flee when they see the sails of our aravels flying above the tops of trees. I say, good, let them flee. The humans took everything from us--our homeland, our freedom, our immortality. What's a little fear compared to all the horrors inflicted upon us? I recite the Oath of the Dales to myself each day when I sleep and when I wake: "Never again shall we submit." Never again.
The keeper says that one day the Dalish will find a home that we can call our own. But why? Why should we tie ourselves to stone constructions like the humans and the dwarves? What is wrong with the life we have now? We owe nothing to anyone, we have no master but ourselves, and we go where the halla and the gods take us. There is nothing more wonderful than sitting on an aravel as it flies through the forest, pulled by our halla. We are truly free, for the first time in our people's history. Why should we change this?
--From the journal of Taniel, clan hunter.
If The Warden is not Dalish...
The Dalish, who band together in small groups of blood relatives, travel in ornately carved wagons known as aravel, drawn by large white stags called halla. The aravel are a unique sight, beautiful in their swooping curvature, and adorned with broad hoods and bright silken cloths that flap in the wind, often displaying the noble banners that once flew over that family's house. Most humans refer to the aravel as "landships," for in a strong wind it can often appear as if the elves travel in long boats with sails high overhead to announce their arrival (or warn others away). The halla are unique to the elves, and any but elven handlers consider them ornery and almost impossible to train. To the Dalish, they are noble beasts, superior in breeding to the horse. Certainly most humans would agree that the halla are as beautiful as the elves themselves; the fact that many imperial nobles maintain a bounty on halla horns that find their way into Tevinter is an affront the Dalish consider unforgivable.
Few among us can claim to have seen the Dalish landships up close. Any human who sees them on the horizon does well to head the other way. Few Dalish clans take kindly to humans intruding on their camps, and more than one tale tells of trouble-making humans who found themselves mercilessly filled with Dalish arrows.
--From In Pursuit of Knowledge: The Travels of A Chantry Scholar, by Brother Genitivi.
- Main article: Codex entry: The Dales
If the Warden is of Dalish origin...
You will hear tales of the woman Andraste. The shemlen name her prophet, bride of their Maker. But we knew her as a war leader, one who, like us, had been a slave and dreamed of liberation. We joined her rebellion against the Imperium, and our heroes died beside her, unmourned, in Tevinter bonfires.
Halamshiral, "the end of the journey," was our capital, built out of the reach of the humans. We could once again forget the incessant passage of time. Our people began the slow process of recovering the culture and traditions we had lost to slavery.
But it was not to last. The Chantry first sent missionaries into the Dales, and then, when those were thrown out, templars. We were driven from Halamshiral, scattered. Some took refuge in the cities of the shemlen, living in squalor, tolerated only a little better than vermin.
We took a different path. We took to the wilderness, never stopping long enough to draw the notice of our shemlen neighbors. In our self-imposed exile, we kept what remained of elven knowledge and culture alive.
If the Warden is not of Dalish origin...
Many forget that when Holy Andraste called out to the oppressed peoples to rise up, it was the elves who answered her first.
The humblest slaves of the Imperium became her vanguard, and when victory came, they were rewarded accordingly: They were given a land in what is now the south of Orlais, called the Dales.
A great exodus of elves undertook the journey to their new home, crossing ocean, desert, and mountain. Their city, the first elven city since the fabled Arlathan, was called Halamshiral. A new era had begun for the elves.
But the old era wasn't through with them. In their forest city, the elves turned again to worship their silent, ancient gods. They became increasingly isolationist, posting Emerald Knights who guarded their borders with jealousy, rebuking all efforts at trade or civilized discourse. Dark rumors spread in the lands that bordered the Dales, whispers of humans captured and sacrificed to elven gods.
And then came an attack by the elves on the defenseless village of Red Crossing. The Chantry replied with the Exalted March of the Dales, and the era of the elven kingdom came to an end. Halamshiral was utterly destroyed, the elves driven out, scattered, left to survive on goodwill alone.
The Long Walk
It was Shartan's dream that one day we we would have our own homeland, where we could live as we chose. After the long struggle that claimed the lives of many, even Shartan himself, we were granted the Dales. And though the Dales were to the south of the land of Orlais, and a long way off from Tevinter, it mattered little. We were going home. And so we walked.
We called our journey the Long Walk, for that was what it was. We walked with what little we had on our backs. Some walked without shoes, for they had none. Whole families, women with infants, the old and young alike—all of them made their way across the land on foot. And if one of our people could no longer walk, we carried him, or sometimes left him behind.
Many perished along the way. Some died of exhaustion, others simply gave up and fell by the wayside. A great number were set upon by human bandits, even though we had few possessions. Along the way, a growing number began to bemoan the decision to leave Tevinter. "At least in Tevinter," they said, "we had food, and water, and shelter. What do we have here? Nothing but the open sky and the prospect of the never-ending road ahead." Some turned back toward Tevinter. But most of us continued walking.
To the ancient elves who existed during the time of Arlathan, uthenera was an act of reverence. Elves did not age. They were not immortal, but they did not suffer from deterioration of mind or body. They suffered only from a deterioration of the spirit.
It did not happen often, but the oldest of the elves were said to reach a point where they became weary of life. Memories became too much to bear, and rather than fade into complacency, they voluntarily stood aside to let newer generations guide their people.
Uthenera means "the long sleep," in which the elder would retire to a chamber that was one part bed and one part tomb. To great ceremony from all the extended family, the elder would succumb to a slumber from which they would not wake for centuries, and often never. In time, the body would deteriorate and the elder would die in truth. All the while, family would continue to visit the chamber to pay respect to one who made such a great sacrifice.
With the arrival of humans and the quickening of elven blood that ensued, the practice of uthenera began to fade. When Arlathan fell, it ceased forever.
Vallaslin: Blood Writing
- Main article: Codex entry: Vallaslin: Blood Writing
If the Warden is Dalish...
When the children of our people came of age, they earn the privilege of wearing the vallaslin, the blood writing. It sets us apart from the shemlen, and from the elves who have thrown their lot in with them. It reminds us that we will never again surrender our traditions and beliefs.
The ritual deserves great reverence. The one who is to gain the vallaslin must prepare by meditating on the gods and the ways of our people, and by purifying the body and the skin. When the time comes, the keeper of the clan applies the blood writing. This is done in complete silence. Cries of pain are signs of weakness. If one cannot tolerate the pain of the blood writing, they are not ready to undertake the responsibilities of an adult. The keeper may stop the ritual if they decide that the one gaining the vallaslin is not ready. There is no shame in this, for all children are different, and our ancestors once took centuries to come of age.
If the Warden is not of Dalish origin or obtained in Dragon Age II...
After my encounter with the Dalish elves on the road to Nevarra, I studied every book on the elves I could find. I sought out legends and myths and history and tried to make sense of it all. But there is only so much one can learn from books. I knew that in order to truly understand the Dalish, I would have to seek them out—a dreadful idea, in hindsight. In my defense, I was young—and also inebriated when the idea popped into my head. Unfortunately, even after I had regained some measure of sobriety, the idea still held appeal. It proved remarkably resistant to my attempts to ignore it.
I gave in after months of that nagging thought at the back of my head and set out to learn about the Dalish first-hand. I tramped through the forests bordering Orlais for weeks before I finally found—or was found by—a Dalish hunter. I stumbled into one of his traps and suddenly was hanging from a tree with a rope about my ankles.
So there I was, defenseless, upside down with my robe over my head, my underclothes on display. Descriptions of my predicament might elicit laughter these days, but trust me when I say it was a situation I would not wish on anyone. Thankfully, my ridiculous appearance may have caused my captor to stay his hand—what threat is a silly human with his pants showing?
And so he sat, made a small fire, and began to skin the deer he had caught. I soon mustered the courage to speak. I tried to assure him that I was not there to harm him—but he laughed at this and replied that if I were there to harm him, I had failed terribly. Eventually we got to talking, and when I say talking, I mean that I asked him questions, and occasionally he would deign to answer.
He told me that while some Dalish actively seek out human travelers to rob or frighten, most of his people would rather be left alone. He seemed to believe that punishing the humans for past actions only led to more violence. I asked him about the intricate tattoos on his face; he told me they were called vallaslin—"blood writing." His were symbols of Andruil the Huntress, one of the most highly revered elven goddesses. He said the Dalish mark themselves to stand out from humans and from those of their kin who have chosen to live under human rule. He said the vallaslin remind his people that they must never again surrender their beliefs.
When he finished skinning the deer, he cut me down. By the time I had righted myself and conquered the dizziness of all the blood rushing out of my head, he was gone.
I do not recommend that my readers seek out the Dalish for themselves. I was very lucky to have met the man that I did, and to have walked away from our meeting unscathed. Perhaps the Maker watches over those who seek knowledge with an open heart; I certainly would like to think so.
The History of the Drydens
- Main article: Codex entry: The History of the Drydens
- See also: Character: Sophia Dryden, Character: Levi Dryden
In the years following the siege of Soldier's Peak, all those who carried the Dryden name were hunted by King Arland's forces. Our noble Dryden name was smeared, and all lands and holdings belonging to the Drydens were seized by the crown. The king feared that the rebellion started by Sophia would be kept alive by her loyal friends and family, and anyone with connections to the Drydens suffered greatly. It is little wonder, then, that the few remaining Drydens found themselves with no allies and nowhere to turn.
Toben Dryden, Sophia's brother and guardian of her young son, had no choice but to flee Ferelden. Toben bought passage to Antiva on a merchant vessel and traveled under the name Derocher. Once in Antiva, Toben set about building a new, quiet life for himself and his nephew. He started a small business and eventually made a name for himself as a trader.
The Derocher merchant family prospered, and the name Dryden was almost forgotten. However, in 8:15 Blessed, Silvie Derocher uncovered old documents belonging to Toben and pieced together the family's history. In her pride, and perhaps in her naivete, Silvie reclaimed the name Dryden and returned to Ferelden.
King Arland lies dead, and the Dryden name lives on. Our family has survived--even thrived--since the death of Sophia Dryden. The nobles of Ferelden may still spit on the Dryden name, but we Drydens know that Sophia Dryden was greater than them, almost a queen, and a hero of the people of Ferelden.
--From the personal files of Levi Dryden, merchant.
The History of Soldier's Peak: Chapter 1
- Main article: Codex entry: The History of Soldier's Peak: Chapter 1
- See also: Quest: Ancient History
The Grey Warden base at Soldier's Peak was built in the middle of the Glory Age, several decades after the second Blight was ended. Before then, Grey Wardens in Ferelden would take up residence in castles and forts that belonged to generous nobles. Warden-Commander Gaspar Asturian desired a fortified headquarters where his forces could train and live. He planned that Soldier's Peak would be a city unto itself. The defeat of the archdemon Zazikel was fresh in the minds of the Fereldan people, and many were willing to donate gold to build Commander Asturian's fortress.
The History of Soldier's Peak: Chapter 2
- Main article: Codex entry: The History of Soldier's Peak: Chapter 2
- See also: Quest: Ancient History
As he approached his 60th year, rumors swirled that the corruption in Warden-Commander Asturian's blood was beginning to take its toll. According to reports from that time, the commander experienced terrifying waking dreams and heard his name whispered from the dark corners of Soldier's Peak. It is said that Asturian would spend hours locked up alone in the Great Hall of the base, muttering to himself, though no one was ever able to make out what he was saying. Many also believed that Asturian began, in secret, to draw up plans to expand his fortress, adding to it hidden passages and alcoves, all to protect himself from the shadows that pursued him.
No one knows whether Asturian was able to complete his project, for his deterioration had become obvious to anyone who spent any amount of time with him. He was quickly replaced by Warden-Commander Frida Halwic. Asturian was taken to Orzammar, where he submitted to the Calling, the last rite of the Grey Wardens, and went to his death with honor.
The History of Soldier's Peak: Chapter 3
- Main article: Codex entry: The History of Soldier's Peak: Chapter 3
- See also: Quest: Ancient History
After Asturian's death, the rumors and theories became increasingly outlandish. One of the more ridiculous rumors told of Asturian's infatuation with an elven princess of lore, whom he was trying to resurrect in a secret ritual chamber through the use of blood magic and the princess's favorite food, raspberry jam.
Warden-Commander Frida Halwic launched a thorough investigation into Asturian's "secret plans" but was unable to uncover any evidence that anything in Soldier's Peak had been changed. Commander Halwic declared that the rumors about Asturian were a slight on his memory and that anyone found repeating them would be harshly punished. The stories were thus silenced.
The History of Soldier's Peak: Chapter 4
- Main article: Codex entry: The History of Soldier's Peak: Chapter 4
- See also: Quest: Ancient History
There was one mystery, however, that persisted, and this mystery perplexed even Commander Halwic herself. When Commander Asturian went to his Calling in the Deep Roads, he did not have in his hand his sword, Asturian's Might, forged for him by dwarven smiths and presented to him upon the completion of Soldier's Peak. Nor did he pass the sword on to his successor, or to any other Grey Warden.
While some maintained that Asturian had simply destroyed the sword in his dotage, others believed he had stashed it away somewhere in Soldier's Peak. One young Warden claimed that Asturian had once grabbed him by the shoulders, fixed him with an unwavering gaze and said, "The sword will remind you what it is to be a Warden. Speak your oath to me, when the shadows come. You must speak the words."
What this was supposed to mean was never made clear.
- Main article: Codex entry: The Anderfels
The Anderfels are a land of shocking extremes. It is the most desolate place in all the world, for two Blights have left great expanses of the steppes so completely devoid of life that corpses cannot even decay there—no insect or grub will ever reach them.
It is a land filled with wonders like the Merdaine, with its gigantic white statue of Our Lady carved into its face, her hands outstretched and bearing an eternal flame, or Weisshaupt Fortress, with its walls of living rock towering over the desolate plains below.
The Anders, too, are a people of extremes: The most devout priests and the most deadly soldiers, the poorest nation in the world and the most feared.
In the rest of the civilized world, it is common belief that Antiva has no king. I assure you, gentle readers, that this is untrue. The line of kings in Antiva has remained unbroken for two and a half thousand years—it is simply that nobody pays any attention to them whatsoever.
The nation is ruled in truth by a collection of merchant princes. They are not princes in the literal sense, but heads of banks, trading companies, and vineyards. Their power is conferred strictly by wealth.
But Antiva is not primarily renowned for its peculiar form of government, nor for its admittedly unparalleled wines. Antiva is known for the House of Crows. Since Antivans are well known for being good at everything but fighting, it is more than a little ironic that Antiva possesses the most deadly assassins in the world. Their fame is such that Antiva keeps no standing army: No king is willing to order his troops to assault her borders, and no general is mad enough to lead such an invasion. The attack would likely succeed, but its leaders would not see the day.
Driven across the Frostbacks in ancient times, the Alamarri tribesmen split into three groups: one settled the Ferelden Valley, one was pushed into the Korcari Wilds, and the last returned to the mountains. Modern Fereldans bear little resemblance to their Alamarri ancestors, and the Chasind remember few of their traditions, but the Avvars have changed little throughout the ages.
Like the Chasind, the Avvars are not a united people. Each tribe fends for itself and is beholden only to its thane. They still follow their own gods: Korth the Mountain-Father, Hakkon Wintersbreath, The Lady of the Skies, as well as dozens of animal gods never named to outsiders.
Nothing lasts in the mountains. Wind and rain eventually eat away the strongest holds. Valleys that were arable one generation are locked in year-round ice the next. Game is constantly on the move. Even among themselves, the Avvar make no absolute promises: they wed by a tradition in which the groom struggles to untie a tightly knotted rope while the bride sings a hymn to one of the gods. However many knots he has undone by the time her song ends is the number of years she will spend with him. Lowlanders often forget that there is no such thing as a permanent alliance in the Frostbacks.
The Bannorn - The Bannorn's role in Fereldan politics
- Main article: Codex entry: The Bannorn
The central Ferelden Valley has always been a paradox: no single bann holds more than a few dozen leagues of farmland, yet together they govern a greater territory than all the teyrns and arls combined. This collection of independent banns is known as the Bannorn, and it is the heart of Fereldan politics.
No person has ever sat upon the throne of Ferelden without first winning the approval of the Bannorn. Queen Fionne, who had the misfortune to take the throne in the eighteenth year of the Steel Age, wrote of the Bannorn, "There have been three wars this year fought over elopements. Five fought over wool. And one started by an apple tree. It isn't even winter yet. Who would believe that these same banns, now trying so hard to kill one another, just last year united to give me the crown?"
The Brecilian Forest - A story of the Brecilian Forest
- Main article: Codex entry: The Brecilian Forest
There are places in the Brecilian Forest where the Veil is so thin the difference between awake and dreaming is next to nothing. In one such place, a wood-shaper was born under such unfortunate stars that his mother named him Abelas, which means "sorrow." And he lived up to his name. He could keep no apprentices, and lost his stock of bows in mishap after mishap, until finally he had nothing. The rest of the clan began to fear that his ill luck would harm them, too, and whispered among themselves of casting him out.
Abelas heard them and resolved to change his luck, and so went into the forest alone to seek a suitable tree from which to make bows.
At last he spied a young rowan growing beside a stream. He drew his axe, and the tree cried out in fear, begging to be spared. But Abelas said, "If I do not take your life, mine will surely end." With two strokes he felled the tree. From the tree, he made the finest three bows he had ever crafted. Pleased, Abelas returned to camp and gave his bows to the hunters at once.
By nightfall, however, the camp was in an uproar. The hunters had returned with braces of hares which, when cut open, revealed only worms and sawdust. The elder said it was a sign that the hunters had robbed some spirit of its host, for it is well known that spirits do not go about the waking world on their own, but inhabit another creature's body. The elder worked a charm to banish the spirit back to the Fade, and the clan went to sleep hungry.
The next day, the hunters brought back a doe, and again the beast bled sawdust. Now the clan began to fear the spirit would starve them, and wondered what they had done to deserve it. Abelas came forward then and told of the rowan tree. The Elder considered for a long time before declaring that they must replace what Abelas had taken from the spirit. So he sent the hunters to dig up a rowan sapling, and bring it, living, to the camp.
There the elder ordered the sapling planted, and appealed to the spirit for forgiveness.
There was a terrible sound then, as if the whole forest were crying out in protest. Darkness fell upon the camp, though it was just past midday. And when the darkness passed, a rowan grove, every tree bearing the frozen face of a terrified elf, stood where the camp had been. From then on, it was forbidden in every clan to cut living trees in the Brecilian Forest. The spirits know nothing of forgiveness.
- Main article: Codex entry: Thedas Calendar
For most good folk, the details of our calendar have little purpose. It is useful only for telling them when the Summerday festival will be held, when the snows are expected to begin, and when the harvest must be complete. The naming of the years are a matter for historians and taxmen, and few if pressed could even tell you the reason that our current Age is named after dragons.
Each Age is exactly 100 years, with the next Age's name chosen in the 99th year. The scholars in Val Royeaux advise the Chantry of portents seen in that 99th year, and Chantry authorities pore over the research for months before the Divine announces the name of the imminent Age. The name is said to be an omen of what is to come, of what the people of Thedas will face for the next hundred years.
The current Age was not meant to be the Dragon Age. Throughout the last months of the Blessed Age, the Chantry was preparing to declare the Sun Age, named for the symbol of the Orlesian Empire, which at that time sprawled over much of the south of Thedas and controlled both Ferelden and what is now Nevarra. It was to be a celebration of Orlesian imperial glory.
But as the rebellion in Ferelden reached a head and the Battle of River Dane was about to begin, a peculiar event occurred: a rampage, the rising of a dreaded high dragon. Dragons had been thought practically extinct since the days of the Nevarran dragon hunts, and they say that to see this great beast rise from the Frostbacks was both majestic and terrifying. As the rampage began and the high dragon decimated the countryside in its search for food, the elderly Divine Faustine II abruptly declared the Dragon Age.
Some say the Divine was declaring support for Orlais in the battle against Ferelden, since the dragon is an element of the Dufayel family heraldry of King Meghren, the so-called Usurper King of Ferelden. Be that as it may, the high dragon's rampage turned towards the Orlesian side of the Frostback Mountains, killing hundreds and sending thousands more fleeing to the northern coast. The Fereldan rebels won the Battle of River Dane, ultimately securing their independence.
Many thus think that the Dragon Age will come to represent a time of violent and dramatic change for all of Thedas. It remains to be seen.
—From The Studious Theologian, by Brother Genitivi, Chantry scholar, 9:25 Dragon.
The Chasind - On the Chasind people
The Chasind "wilders" have lived in the Korcari Wilds since the first wars with the Alamarri drove them southward a millennium ago. According to their own lore, they had always been a forest-dwelling people that adapted quickly to their new home. Game and fish are plentiful in the wetlands, and the Chasind thrived.
For a time, they and the hill-dwelling Avvars were true threats to the northern lowlands. The Tevinter Imperium had arrived and was hard-pressed to keep back the waves of invasions from the south and the west. The fortress of Ostagar was built specifically to watch for Chasind hordes venturing north of the tree line. It was not until the legendary warrior Hafter soundly defeated the Chasind in the first half of the Divine Age that the question of their ability to contest the lowlands was settled permanently.
Today, the Chasind are considered largely peaceful, though their ways are still primitive compared to our own. In the Korcari Wilds they live in strange-looking huts built on stilts or even built into the great treetops. They paint their faces and are split into small tribes ruled by shamans like those amongst the Avvars. There are many tales of these shamans having learned their magic from the "Witches of the Wilds," witches that inspire as much terror as they do awe and gratitude even if there is no definitive proof they exist. In particular, the tale of Flemeth, the greatest witch of the wilds, is celebrated amongst all tribes.
While there is no way to know how many there are in the Wilds today, few travelers that pass through the forests tell of Chasind eking out an existence even in the frozen wastelands of the far south. One can assume that should the Chasind ever organize themselves once more, we might have reason to fear them here in Ferelden. We ignore them at our peril.
The City Elves
- Main article: Codex entry: The City Elves
If the Warden is a City Elf...
The humans tell tales of Andraste, and to them, she was a prophet. To our people, however, she was an inspiration. Her rebellion against Tevinter gave our people a window through which to see the sun, and we reached toward it with all our strength. The rebellion was brief but successful; even after the death of the prophetess, we fought on for independence as the human Imperium began to crumble. In the end, we won freedom and the southern land known as the Dales, and we began the Long Walk to our new homeland.
There, in the Dales, our people revived the lost lore as best we could. We called the first city Halamshiral, "end of the journey," and founded a new nation, isolated as elves were meant to be, this time patrolled by an order of Emerald Knights charged with watching the borders for trouble from humans.
But you already know that something went wrong. A small elven raiding party attacked the nearby human village of Red Crossing, an act of anger that prompted the Chantry to retaliate and, with their superior numbers, conquer the Dales.
We were not enslaved as we had been before, but our worship of the ancient gods was now forbidden. We were allowed to live among the humans only as second-class citizens who worshipped their Maker, forgetting once more the scraps of lore we had maintained through the centuries.
If the Warden is a Dalish Elf...
It is hard to tell our children about those of our people who have decided to live in the shemlen's cities. They ask, "Why would anyone want to be treated like that?" And sometimes I do not know what to say. I do not understand it myself. They were freed, but they have returned to live in the service of their former masters. They are housed like animals in walled sections of the shemlen's cities. They do the meanest of tasks and are rewarded with nothing. Why? I do not know.
We tell the children that the elvhen are strong, that we are a proud people, but they hear of these city elves who choose to toil under the humans' heavy hand. How do we teach them pride when they know there are others who would allow themselves to be trampled into the dust? So we tell them that these city elves are to be pitied, that they have given up on their people, given up their heritage. We tell them that some people are so used to being controlled that, when freed, they know not what to do with themselves. They are weak and afraid--afraid of the unfamiliar, afraid of our life of wandering. Above all, they are afraid even to hope that one day we may have a home of our own.
If the Warden is a not a City nor Dalish elf or obtained in Dragon Age II...
When the holy Exalted March of the Dales resulted in the dissolution of the elven kingdom, leaving a great many elves homeless once again, the Divine Renata I declared that all lands loyal to the Chantry must give the elves refuge within their own walls. Considering the atrocities committed by the elves at Red Crossing, this was a great testament to the Chantry's charity. There was one condition, however--the elves were to lay aside their pagan gods and live under the rule of the Chantry.
Some of the elves refused our goodwill. They banded together to form the wandering Dalish elves, keeping their old elven ways--and their hatred of humans--alive. To this day, Dalish elves still terrorize those of us who stray too close to their camps. Most of the elves, however, saw that it was wisest to live under the protection of humans.
And so we took the elves into our cities and tried to integrate them. We invited them into our own homes and gave them jobs as servants and farmhands. Here, in Denerim, the elves even have their own quarter, governed by an elven keeper. Most have proven to be productive members of society. Still, a small segment of the elven community remains dissatisfied. These troublemakers and malcontents roam the streets causing mayhem, rebelling against authority and making a general nuisance of themselves.
- Main article: Codex entry: Alienage Culture
There have always been alienages. They have been around for as long as elves and shems have lived in the same lands. Ours isn't even the worst: They say that Val Royeaux has ten thousand elves living in a space no bigger than Denerim's market. Their walls are supposedly so high that daylight doesn't reach the vhenadahl until midday.
But don't be so anxious to start tearing down the walls and picking fights with the guards. They keep out more than they keep in. We don't have to live here, you know. Sometimes a family gets a good break, and they buy a house in the docks, or the outskirts of town. If they're lucky, they come back to the alienage after the looters have burned their house down. The unlucky ones just go to the paupers' field.
Here, we're among family. We look out for each other. Here, we do what we can to remember the old ways. The flat-ears who have gone out there, they're stuck. They'll never be human, and they've gone and thrown away being elven, too. So where does that leave them? Nowhere.
--Sarethia, hahren of the Highever alienage
Arlathan: Part One
Before the ages were named or numbered, our people were glorious and eternal and never-changing. Like the great oak tree, they were constant in their traditions, strong in their roots, and ever reaching for the sky.
They felt no need to rush when life was endless. They worshiped their gods for months at a time. Decisions came after decades of debate, and an introduction could last for years. From time to time, our ancestors would drift into centuries-long slumber, but this was not death, for we know they wandered the Fade in dreams.
In those ages, our people called all the land Elvhenan, which in the old Elven language means "place of our people." And at the center of the world stood the great city of Arlathan, a place of knowledge and debate, where the best of the ancient elves would go to trade knowledge, greet old friends, and settle disputes that had gone on for millennia.
But while our ancestors were caught up in the forever cycle of ages, drifting through life at what we today would consider an intolerable pace, the world outside the lush forests and ancient trees was changing.
The humans first arrived from Par Vollen to the north. Called shemlen, or "quicklings," by the ancients, the humans were pitiful creatures whose lives blinked by in an instant. When they first met the elves, the humans were brash and warlike, quick to anger and quicker to fight, with no patience for the unhurried pace of elven diplomacy.
But the humans brought worse things than war with them. Our ancestors proved susceptible to human diseases, and for the first time in history, elves died of natural causes. What's more, those elves who spent time bartering and negotiating with humans found themselves aging, tainted by the humans' brash and impatient lives. Many believed that the ancient gods had judged them unworthy of their long lives and cast them down among the quicklings. Our ancestors came to look upon the humans as parasites, which I understand is similar to the way the humans see our people in the cities. The ancient elves immediately moved to close Elvhenan off from the humans, for fear that this quickening effect would crumble the civilization.
Arlathan: Part Two
You ask what happened to Arlathan? Sadly, we do not know. Even those of us who keep the ancient lore have no record of what truly happened. What we have are accounts of the days before the fall, and a fable of the whims of the gods.
The human world was changing even as the elves slept. Clans and tribes gave way to a powerful empire called Tevinter, which—and for what reason we do not know—moved to conquer Elvhenan. When they breached the great city of Arlathan, our people, fearful of disease and loss of immortality, chose to flee rather than fight. With magic, demons, and even dragons at their behest, the Tevinter Imperium marched easily through Arlathan, destroying homes and galleries and amphitheaters that had stood for ages. Our people were corralled as slaves, and human contact quickened their veins until every captured elf turned mortal. The elves called to their ancient gods, but there was no answer.
As to why the gods didn't answer, our people left only a legend. They say that Fen'Harel, the Dread Wolf and Lord of Tricksters, approached the ancient gods of good and evil and proposed a truce. The gods of good would remove themselves to heaven, and the lords of evil would exile themselves to the abyss, neither group ever again to enter the other's lands. But the gods did not know that Fen'Harel had planned to betray them, and by the time they realized the Dread Wolf's treachery, they were sealed in their respective realms, never again to interact with the mortal world. It is a fable, to be sure, but those elves who travel the Beyond claim that Fen'Harel still roams the world of dreams, keeping watch over the gods lest they escape from their prisons.
Whatever the case, Arlathan had fallen to the very humans our people had once considered mere pests. It is said that the Tevinter magisters used their great destructive power to force the very ground to swallow Arlathan whole, destroying eons of collected knowledge, culture, and art. The whole of elven lore left only to memory.
The Dalish Elves
- Main article: Codex entry: The Dalish Elves
Obtained in Dragon Age II or if the Warden/ the Inquisitor is a Dalish elf...
In time, the human empires will crumble. We have seen it happen countless times. Until then, we wait, we keep to the wild border lands, we raise halla and build aravels and present a moving target to the humans around us. We try to keep hold of the old ways, to relearn what was forgotten.
We call to the ancient gods, although they do not answer and have not heard us since before the fall of Arlathan, so that one day they might remember us: Elgar'nan the Eldest of the Sun and He Who Overthrew His Father, Mythal the Protector, Fen'Harel the Dread Wolf, Andruil the Huntress, Falon'Din the Friend of the Dead, Dirthamen the Keeper of Secrets, Ghilan'nain the Mother of Halla, June the Master of Crafts, and Sylaise the Hearthkeeper.
We gather every ten years for the Arlathvhen, to retell the ancient stories and keep them alive. For when the human kingdoms are gone, we must be ready to teach the others what it means to be elves.
If the Warden/ the Inquisitor is not a Dalish elf...
I took the road north from Val Royeaux toward Nevarra with a merchant caravan. A scant two days past the Orlesian border, we were beset by bandits. They struck without warning from the cover of the trees, hammering our wagons with arrows, killing most of the caravan guards instantly. The few who survived the arrow storm drew their blades and charged into the trees after our attackers. We heard screams muffled by the forest, and then nothing more of those men.
After a long silence, the bandits appeared. Elves covered in tattoos and dressed in hides, they looted all the supplies and valuables they could carry from the merchants and disappeared back into the trees.
These, I was informed later, were the Dalish, the wild elves who lurk in the wilderness on the fringes of settled lands, preying upon travelers and isolated farmers. These wild elves have reverted to the worship of their false gods and are rumored to practice their own form of magic, rejecting all human society.
Denerim - On the city of Denerim
When anyone in Ferelden speaks of "going to the city," they inevitably mean Denerim. There is no other place in the kingdom which rivals it: Not in size, population, wealth, or importance. It is the seat of the Theirin family, the capital of Ferelden, the largest seaport, and, by ancient tradition, the meeting place of the Landsmeet.
As well, Denerim was the birthplace of Andraste. One of them, anyway, as several other sites claim to have been the prophet's early home, including Jader, in Orlais. The Chantry takes no stance on which site's claim is valid, but it is well known that Andraste was Fereldan by birth. When visiting the pilgrimage site in Denerim, it is inadvisable to mention Jader at all.
The city rests at the foot of the Dragon's Peak, a solitary mountain scarred by ancient lava flows. During Andraste's lifetime, it reputedly filled the sky with a great column of black ash and sent burning rock raining down as far away as the Free Marches, but it is now considered extinct. Some believe it merely sleeps, and will again darken the sky with ash and fire when the last Fereldan king dies, but this is highly unlikely.
Dragon Cults - On the worship of dragons
- Main article: Codex entry: Dragon Cults
Let us suggest, for the moment, that a high dragon is simply an animal. A cunning animal, to be sure, but in possession of no true self-awareness or sentience. There has not, after all, been a single recorded case of a dragon attempting to communicate or performing any act that could not likewise be attributed to a clever beast.
How, then, does one explain the existence of so-called "dragon cults" throughout history?
One dragon cult might be explainable, especially in light of the reverence of the Old Gods in the ancient Tevinter Imperium. In the wake of the first Blight, many desperate imperial citizens turned to the worship of real dragons to replace the Old Gods who had failed them. A dragon, after all, was a god-figure that they could see: It was there, as real as the archdemon itself, and, as evidence makes clear, did offer a degree of protection to its cultists.
Other dragon cults could be explained in light of the first. Some cult members might have survived and spread the word. The worship of the Old Gods was as widespread as the Imperium itself--certainly such secrets could have made their way into many hands. But there have been reports of dragon cults even in places where the Imperium never touched, among folks who had never heard of the Old Gods or had any reason to. How does one explain them?
Members of a dragon cult live in the same lair as a high dragon, nurturing and protecting its defenseless young. In exchange, the high dragon seem to permit those cultists to kill a small number of those young in order to feast on draconic blood. That blood is said to have a number of strange long-term effects, including bestowing greater strength and endurance, as well as an increased desire to kill. It may breed insanity as well. Nevarran dragon-hunters have said these cultists are incredibly powerful opponents. The changes in the cultists are a form of blood magic, surely, but how did the symbiotic relationship between the cult and the high dragon form in the first place? How did the cultists know to drink the dragon's blood? How did the high dragon convince them to care for its young, or know that they would?
Is there more to draconic intelligence than we have heretofore guessed at? No member of a dragon cult has ever been taken alive, and what accounts exist from the days of the Nevarran hunters record only mad rants and impossible tales of godhood. With dragons only recently reappearing and still incredibly rare, we may never know the truth, but the question remains.
History of Ferelden: Chapter 1
- Main article: Codex entry: History of Ferelden: Chapter 1
Ferelden, as we think of it now, did not exist before the Exalted Age. Instead, the valley was divided up into dozens of old Alamarri clans. They warred constantly with one another over land, honor, the allegiance of the freeholders, and, on one notable occasion, the name given to a favorite mabari.
Most of what we know about the founding of our nation comes from old songs that the bards passed down through the Ages. The songs are filled with wild exaggerations and outright lies, but this hardly differs from the scholarly papers of some of my contemporaries. There is no agreement among poets or scholars on how he did it, but Calenhad gained the support of the Circle of Magi, and they crafted for him a suit of silvery white armor that, by all accounts, repelled both arrow and blade. Calenhad led his army across the valley and captured Redcliffe--one of only three men who ever successfully laid siege to that fortress--and presented himself to the banns of the Landsmeet as their king.
The poets tell us that every lord knelt before Calenhad without question. The fact that he attended the Landsmeet surrounded by Ash Warriors and loyal mages of the Circle is generally omitted from the ballads, however.
From Calenhad came the line of Theirin kings and queens who reigned, uninterrupted, until the 44th year of the Blessed Age, when the Orlesian invasion came. The rightful king was forced to flee Denerim, and for 70 years (sic) a puppet sat upon the throne.
History of Ferelden: Chapter 2
- Main article: Codex entry: History of Ferelden: Chapter 2
The occupation was a dark blot on Ferelden's history. Our people, who from time immemorial valued their freedom over all else, were forced to bow to Orlesian rule. The Empire declared our elves property and sold them like cattle. Chevaliers routinely plundered freeholds of coin, food, and even women and children, and excused it as "taxation." And for 70 years (sic) no Landsmeets were held, for the Imperial throne had declared our ancient laws a form of treason.
King Brandel was one of those who escaped. He tried to organize the other fugitive lords to retake their land, but Brandel was neither clever nor persuasive, and the nobles preferred to take their chances alone. Ferelden might still be little more than a territory of the Empire were it not for the fact that his daughter had all the charisma that her royal father lacked. The Rebel Queen's rule began with a midnight attack on the imperial armory at Lothering. It was swift and successful, and with their pilfered arms the rebels began a campaign against the Orlesians in earnest.
But the turning point of the war came when a young freeholder joined the queen's army. The lad, Loghain Mac Tir, possessed a remarkable talent for strategy, and quickly became the favorite advisor of young Prince Maric. The queen finally died at the hands of Orlesian sympathizers anxious to curry favor with their painted masters, and Maric took her place as the leader of the rebellion. Loghain became Maric's right hand. Maric and Loghain led the rebels in a new campaign against their Orlesian oppressors, culminating in the battle of River Dane, where the last Chevaliers in Denerim were crushed. With the capital once more in the hands of Fereldans, the battle to free our people was finally over. But the battle to rebuild what had been lost had only just begun.
Culture of Ferelden
- Main article: Codex entry: Culture of Ferelden
The Fereldans are a puzzle. As a people, they are one bad day away from reverting to barbarism. They repelled invasions from Tevinter during the height of the Imperium with nothing but dogs and their own obstinate disposition. They are the coarse, wilful, dirty, disorganized people who somehow gave rise to our prophet, ushered in an era of enlightenment, and toppled the greatest empire in history.
There are few things you can assume safely in dealing with these people: First, they value loyalty above all things, beyond wealth, beyond power, beyond reason. Second, although they have nothing in their entire country which you are likely to think at all remarkable, they are extremely proud of their accomplishments. Third, if you insult their dogs, they are likely to declare war. And finally, the surest sign that you have underestimated the Fereldans is that you think you have come to understand them.
Dogs in Ferelden
I am frequently asked, during my travels in other lands, to explain the dogs omnipresent in Ferelden. Inevitably, I tell my foreign questioners that there are no more dogs in my homeland than in their own. In every civilized corner of Thedas, an astute observer will notice dogs employed in hunting game, keeping barns and storehouses free of vermin, herding livestock, guarding homes, and even used as beasts of burden in the mountains. It is simply that Fereldans show appreciation for the work that our dogs do. And perhaps the reason for that is tangled up in mythology.
Hafter, the first man to be named teyrn, the hero who united our Alamarri ancestors to drive back the darkspawn of the second Blight, was reputed to be the son of a werewolf. Now, perhaps this was meant to be some comment on his temperament, or simply a way of making a great man even larger than life. But more than half the noble families of Ferelden claim to be descendants of Hafter, and consequently, many of our people believe they have some distant kinship with wolves. It is only good manners to be polite to one's kin.
Geography of Ferelden
- Main article: Codex entry: Geography of Ferelden
The kingdom of Ferelden is the southernmost civilized nation in Thedas--although some scholars dispute that claim to civilization. It is perhaps the most physically isolated of all the kingdoms of Thedas: To the east is the Amaranthine Ocean, to the north the Waking Sea, and to the south the Korcari Wilds, which in the summer months are a vast peat bog, and in the winter become a treacherous labyrinth of iced-over waterways. The Frostback Mountains guard the western border, and only a narrow plain between the mountains and the sea allows travel between Ferelden and Orlais.
Most of the land in the central portion of the kingdom, called the Bannorn, is open plains. These are crossed by the remnants of an ancient Tevinter highway that once connected Val Royeaux with Ostagar, on the edge of the Korcari Wilds. The western part of Ferelden is dominated by Lake Calenhad, a huge caldera filled by the runoff of glaciers from nearby mountains. Lake Calenhad is home to the famed fortress of Redcliffe, as well as the Circle Tower, which houses Ferelden's Circle of Magi.
The Free Marches
- Main article: Codex entry: The Free Marches
The Free Marches are not a kingdom, nor even a nation in the most basic sense. People from that region dislike even being lumped together as "Marchers." Rather, they are a collection of independent city-states united only when it suits them; in this respect, they resemble the Bannorn before the arrival of King Calenhad. Because of this, the Free Marches have no capital, and what passes for a central government exists only sporadically, a sort of Landsmeet that convenes only during times of crisis. (Excerpt)
Politics of Ferelden
- Main article: Codex entry: Politics of Ferelden
To our neighbors, Ferelden seems utterly chaotic. Unlike other monarchies, power does not descend from our throne. Rather, it rises from the support of the freeholders.
Each freehold chooses the bann or arl to whom it pays allegiance. Typically, this choice is based on proximity of the freehold to the lord's castle, as it's worthless to pay for the upkeep of soldiers who will arrive at your land too late to defend it. For the most part, each generation of freeholders casts its lot with the same bann as their fathers did, but things can and do change. No formal oaths are sworn, and it is not unheard of, especially in the prickly central Bannorn, for banns to court freeholders away from their neighbors—a practice which inevitably begets feuds that last for ages.
Teyrns arose from amongst the banns, warleaders who, in antiquity, had grown powerful enough to move other banns to swear fealty to them. There were many teyrns in the days before King Calenhad, but he succeeded in whittling them down to only two: Gwaren in the south, Highever in the north. These teyrns still hold the oaths of banns and arls who they may call upon in the event of war or disaster, and similarly, the teyrns still hold responsibility for defending those sworn to them.
The arls were established by the teyrns, given command of strategic fortresses that could not be overseen by the teyrns themselves. Unlike the teyrns, the arls have no banns sworn to them, and are simply somewhat more prestigious banns.
The king is, in essence, the most powerful of the teyrns. Although Denerim was originally the teyrnir of the king, it has since been reduced to an arling, as the king's domain is now all of Ferelden. But even the king's power must come from the banns.
Nowhere is this more evident than during the Landsmeet, an annual council for which all the nobles of Ferelden gather, held for almost three thousand years except odd interruptions during Blights and invasions. The sight of a king asking for—and working to win—the support of "lesser" men is a source of constant wonder to foreign ambassadors.
The Frostback Mountains
- Main article: Codex entry: The Frostback Mountains
Even mountains had a heart, once. When the world was young, Korth the Mountain-Father kept his throne at the peak of Belenas, the mountain that lies at the center of the world, from which he could see all the corners of earth and sky. And he saw strong men become weak, brave men grow cowardly, and wise men turn foolish for love.
Korth devised a plan that he might never be betrayed by his own heart, by taking it out and hiding it where no soul would ever dare search for it. He sealed it inside a golden cask, buried it in the earth, and raised around it the fiercest mountains the world had ever seen, the Frostbacks, to guard it.
But without his heart, the Mountain-Father grew cruel. His chest was filled with bitter mountain winds that shrieked and howled like lost souls. Food lost its flavor, music had no sweetness, and he lost all joy in deeds of valor. He sent avalanches and earthquakes to torment the tribes of men. Gods and men rose against him, calling him a tyrant, but with no heart, Korth could not be slain. Soon there were no heroes left, either among men or gods, who would dare challenge Korth.
The Lady of the Skies sent the best of her children—the swiftest, the cleverest, and strongest fliers—to scour the mountains for the missing heart, and for a year and a day they searched. But sparrow and raven, vulture and eagle, swift and albatross returned to her with nothing.
Then the ptarmigan spoke up, and offered to find the god-chief's heart. The other birds laughed, for the ptarmigan is a tiny bird, too humble to soar, which spends half its time hopping along the ground. The Lady would not give the little creature her blessing, for the mountains were too fierce even for eagles, but the ptarmigan set out anyway.
The little bird traveled deep into the Frostbacks. When she could not fly, she crawled. She hugged the ground and weathered the worst mountain winds, and so made her lonely way to the valley where the heart beat. With all the god's terrible deeds, the heart was far too heavy for the tiny bird to carry, so she rolled it, little by little, out of the valley and down a cliff, and when the golden cask struck the earth, it shattered. The heart was full almost to bursting, and the pain of it roused the mountain god to come see what had happened.
When Korth neared his heart, it leapt back into his chest and he was whole again. Then Hakkon Wintersbreath bound Korth's chest with three bands of iron and three bands of ice, so it could never again escape. And all the remaining gods named the ptarmigan honored above even the loftiest eagles.
The human settlement of Gwaren is built directly on top of a dwarven outpost by the same name. Prior to the First Blight, in a time when Ferelden was not yet a nation and was still carved up into barbarian tribes, the outpost served as a source of salt and a means by which the dwarves could reach the sea-lanes of the Amaranthine Ocean. Unwilling to come to the surface, the dwarves made an agreement with the local teyrn to build a port and relied on the humans to ferry goods between the ships and the underground outpost. This made Gwaren a prosperous place and extraordinarily wealthy for a time.
When, in the Divine Age, the dwarven kingdoms fell to the darkspawn and the Deep Roads were closed off, so too did the dwarves disappear from Gwaren. The human settlement, the envy of surrounding barbarian tribes, was assaulted and sacked, its wealth stolen.
The town remained, however, and despite its remote location continued to find value as a source of fish and timber. As the first settlement liberated by King Maric and Loghain during the Fereldan Rebellion, Gwaren was eventually granted to Loghain when he became teyrn in 9:11 Dragon.
- Main article: Codex entry: Highever
Castle Highever has stood since the Divine Age, when it was not an independent bannorn, but merely an outpost of the growing Bannorn of Amaranthine, in the days before Amaranthine became an arling itself. The outpost of Highever was originally held by the Elstan family, cousins of the Howes. In the Age of Towers, however, Bann Conobar Elstan was murdered by his wife, Flemeth, thus ending the bloodline. Conobar's captain of the guard, Sarim Cousland, took the lands and title.
The Couslands declared their independence from Amaranthine, starting a war that lasted 30 years. When the dust settled, Highever was on its own, and in possession of half the land that had once been southwestern Amaranthine.
Highever became a teyrnir during the Black Age, when Haelia Cousland gathered the lords together under her banner to drive the werewolves out of their lands, earning herself the title of teyrna almost as an afterthought.
Today, Highever is one of only two remaining teyrnirs, making the Cousland family second in rank only to the king.
If the Warden is Human Noble...
The Cousland family, however, was all but wiped out in an unexpected attack by Arl Howe of Amaranthine, and the fate of the teyrnir is now in question.
If the Warden is not Human Noble...
Arl Howe of Amaranthine was named the new Teyrn of Highever under somewhat questionable circumstances, and the fate of the Cousland family is now uncertain.
The waters of Lake Calenhad are steeped in legends. The Avvar people say that it was once the site of Belenas, the mountain which stood at the center of the world, from which Korth the Mountain Father surveyed the earth and sky. But it was destroyed in the battle between Korth and the serpent Nathramar, leaving only a vast crater behind. When the Lady of the Skies saw that Belenas was gone, she wept, and her tears filled the crater, making the lake.
The Tevinters believed that the waters of Lake Calenhad were blessed by Razikale, god of mysteries, and that those who drank from them were granted special insights. This was why they built the great tower on an island in the middle of the lake, hoping the powers of the lake would aid their magical research.
But most of us know the legend of King Calenhad, which gives the place its name. It is said that Calenhad Theirin spent a year and a day in the Tower of the Magi. Each day, he drew a single cup full of water from the lake and carried it to the Formari at the top of the tower. By magic, each cup of water was forged into a single ring of the mail armor the Circle gave to Calenhad. In that armor, made from the lifeblood of the land itself, no blade could strike him, no arrow pierce him, so long as he stood on Fereldan soil.
In ancient times, Lothering was little more than a trading post that served the fortress of Ostagar to the south. Nowadays, it is larger, serving Redcliffe and the community of merchants and surface dwarves near Orzammar. Its location on the North Road gives it strategic value, so control of Lothering has historically been a matter of contention between the Southern Bannorn and the South Reach Arling. King Calenhad himself stepped in and awarded the town to South Reach in the Exalted Age, which has largely ended the feud, or at least the appearance of it.
King Maric Theirin
It is difficult to separate the man from the myth. The last survivor of the bloodline of King Calenhad, the silver knight, Maric drove the Orlesian forces from Ferelden's borders, reclaimed the throne, and freed our people from foreign tyranny. All true, and all larger than life.
He was born in hiding near Cathal's Crossing to the Rebel Queen Moira and grew up in the rebel camps, an outlaw in his own country. When the rebel queen died, Maric inherited her homeless nobles, malcontents, and displaced freeholders, and with the aid of his friend Loghain Mac Tir, built them into an army.
After the pivotal battle of River Dane, Maric took the throne. He married Rowan, daughter of Rendorn Guerrin, arl of Redcliffe, and began the long, slow process of rebuilding everything Orlais had demolished during 70 years of occupation.
- Main article: Codex entry: Nevarra
The fourth time I attempted to cross the border into Nevarra from Orlais and was turned back by Chevaliers, I decided to take the more roundabout path: a ship back to Ferelden, and then another to Nevarra. The outcome was more than worth the trouble.
The whole country is filled with artistry, from the statues of heroes that litter the streets in even the meanest villages to the glittering golden College of Magi in Cumberland. Perhaps nowhere is more astonishing than the vast necropolis outside Nevarra City. Unlike most other followers of Andraste, the Nevarrans do not burn their dead. Instead, they carefully preserve the bodies and seal them in elaborate tombs. Some of the wealthiest Nevarrans begin construction of their own tombs while quite young, and these become incredible palaces, complete with gardens, bathhouses, and ballrooms, utterly silent, kept only for the dead.
The Noble Families of Ferelden
- Main article: Codex entry: The Noble Families of Ferelden
The occupation left empty castles in its wake. Whole families were butchered in the initial invasion, and all those who couldn't or wouldn't bend knee to the Emperor's puppet king were declared traitors and hunted. Many bloodlines ended on Chevaliers' blades at dusty crossroads, in forest clearings, or in freeholds.
And then there were the turncoats.
To curry favor with their new masters, some nobles took up arms against their brothers. They betrayed and murdered the Rebel Queen, an act that created even more vacant titles and lands, once King Maric exacted justice.
That Ferelden did not fall apart after the Orlesians left is a testament to the strength of King Maric. The old families still held grudges against those who had sided with the emperor, and those new families that had been granted titles were viewed as interlopers. The Landsmeets that followed Maric's coronation were tense, to say the least.
The Old Gods - On the Old Gods
Dumat, the Dragon of Silence.
Zazikel, the Dragon of Chaos.
Toth, the Dragon of Fire.
Andoral, the Dragon of Slaves.
Urthemiel, the Dragon of Beauty.
Razikale, the Dragon of Mystery.
Lusacan, the Dragon of Night.
There were seven Old Gods, great winged dragons that were said to rule over the ancient world. The Chantry maintains that they are responsible for the original sin, that they turned humanity away from its true creator through deceit. Humanity's faith faltered, and thus the Maker turned away from the world—but not before trapping the Old Gods in eternal prisons beneath the earth as punishment.
Scholars assume that the Old Gods must indeed have been real at one point, but most agree that they were likely actual dragons—ancient high dragons of a magnitude not known today, and impressive enough to frighten ancient peoples into worshipping them. Some even claim that these dragons slumber as a form of hibernation, not as a result of the Maker's wrath.
Regardless of the truth, legend maintains that even from their underground prisons, the Old Gods were able to whisper into the minds of men. The Archon Thalsian, first of the Magisters, who claimed to have contacted the Old God Dumat, used the blood magic Dumat taught to him to attain incredible power in Tevinter and declare himself the ruler of an Empire. In return, he established the first temples worshipping the Old Gods, and the dragons became equated everywhere with imperial power.
To date, four of the Old Gods are said to have risen as corrupted archdemons: Dumat, the first and most powerful, was slain at the Battle of Silent Fields. Zazikel fell at the Battle of Starkhaven, Toth died at the Battle of Hunter Fell, and Andoral was felled by Garahel, the legendary Grey Warden, at the Battle of Ayesleigh. The archdemons have been identified only after years of argument among scholars, and to this day it is unclear whether the archdemons were truly Old Gods and not simply dragons. All that is known is that the darkspawn hunt for them deep underground. If they are truly the Old Gods, as many scholars believe, then we have only three Blights remaining. When all the Old Gods have risen and been slain, however, what will happen? Will the Blights end forever, and humanity earn forgiveness from the Maker at last? We shall see.
—From The Old Gods Rise Again by Sister Mary, Chantry scholar, 8:50 Blessed.
The Orlesian Empire
- Main article: Codex entry: The Orlesian Empire
There are many lords and ladies in Val Royeaux.
And I mean this literally. Once, the system of noble titles in Orlais was labyrinthine: There were barons and baronnes and baronets and sur-barons and a horde of others, each with its own origins and its own nuances of comparison. The Orlesian aristocracy is ancient and much given to competition. All the nobility play the Grand Game, as it is known, whether they wish to or not. It is a game of reputation and patronage, where moves are made with rumors and scandal is the chief weapon. No gentle game, this. More blood has been drawn as a result of the Grand Game than any war the Orlesians have fought. Of this, I am assured by almost every gentleman here.
As far as titles went, everything changed with the coming of Emperor Drakon, who established the Orlesian Empire as it exists now, and who created the Chantry. There is no more venerated figure in Orlais; in Val Royeaux, the statue of Drakon stands as tall as the statue of Andraste. Drakon determined that the Grand Game was tearing Orlais apart, so he abolished all titles besides his own, and lord, and lady.
I am told, with some twittering amusement, that this action did not end the Grand Game as Drakon had intended. Now the lords and ladies collected unofficial titles rather than official ones, such as "the exalted patron of Tassus Klay" or "uncle to the champion of Tremmes." It is a headache to remember such titles, and one winces to think of the poor doormen at the balls who must rattle them off as each guest enters the room.
The aristocracy is different from Ferelden in other ways, as well. The Orlesians' right to rule stems directly from the Maker. There exists neither the concept of rule by merit nor the slightest notion of rebellion. If one is not noble, one aspires to be—or at the least aspires to be in the good graces of a noble, and is ever watching for a way to enter the patronage of those better placed in the Grand Game.
And then there are the masks. And the cosmetics: I have not seen so much paint since the kennels at Highever. But that is another story.
The caste system in Orzammar includes many groups of privilege—the nobility and the warriors above all others, but to a lesser degree the merchants and the smiths and the miners. Tradition establishes a clear hierarchy. But as in any culture with an upper class, there is also a clear underclass. These unfortunates, the so-called "casteless," are believed to be descendants of criminals and other undesirables. They have been looked down upon since Orzammar's foundation. They have taken up residence in a place called "Dust Town," a crumbling ruin on the fringe of Orzammar's common areas.
Orzammar society considers these casteless lower than even the Servant Caste (indeed, the casteless are not allowed to become servants, as it is too honorable a position). They are seen as little better than animals, their faces branded at birth to mark them as the bastard children of the kingdom. Their home district, little more than a slum, is a haven for crime, organized and otherwise. Orzammar's guards seemingly cannot be bothered to patrol its streets. The best that most casteless dwarves can hope for is a life at the whim of a local crime lord, ended abruptly by violence or an overabundance of toxic lichen ale.
Even so, there is some hope for the casteless, a dangling rope that offers a way up into greater Orzammar society. Since a dwarf's caste is determined by the parent of the same sex, the male child of a nobleman is part of that noble's house and caste. Strangely, it is acceptable for casteless women to train in the arts of courtly romance to woo nobles and warriors; they are known as "noble hunters." Any male born from such a union is considered a joyous event, considering the low rate of dwarven fertility. The mother and entire family are then taken in by the father's house, although they retain their caste.
The dwarves we know on the surface are also considered casteless once they leave Orzammar, although this is only relevant to those who return--if they are allowed to return at all. Dwarves who leave for the surface (the "sun-touched," as they're often called behind their backs) lose their connection to the Stone and the favor of the ancestors, and thus are worthy of little more than pity, for upon dying they are said to be lost to the Stone forever. Put that way, it seems a sad existence indeed.
Visitors to Orzammar should keep in mind that the hierarchies of dwarven society are much more complex than our own. It is easy to gravely insult a man simply by mistaking his position. Since this can lead to unnecessary loss of life and limbs, I will attempt to mitigate the danger for my fellow travelers.
The society of Orzammar is divided into nobles, warriors, smiths, artisans, miners, merchants, and servants. Now, you are undoubtedly saying to yourself, "We have all those divisions among our own people." This is a dangerous misconception. Certainly, we do have nobility, artisans, merchants, and these positions are largely inherited from our parents. However, the younger children of noblemen often choose to be artisans or soldiers. The sons of merchants may join the army, or become servants, or apprentice themselves to a craftsman. This is all freely chosen. Limited, perhaps, by the circumstances of birth, but still chosen.
What is a matter of choice for most human folk is dictated entirely by birth for dwarves. No one may become a smith who was not born to Smith Caste parents. A servant who marries a noblewoman will never be a noble himself, and although his daughters would be nobles, his sons would be servants, for daughters inherit the caste of their mother, while sons inherit the caste of their father.
--From In Pursuit of Knowledge: The Travels of A Chantry Scholar, by Brother Genitivi
Life in Orzammar
The dwarves of Orzammar are quite unlike those found in most human cities. Although Orzammar derives its vast wealth from trade with human kingdoms, all dwarves who come to the surface to trade are stripped of their position in society. Dwarven merchants are so ubiquitous in human cities that many people labor under the impression that all dwarves are merchants, or that their whole race worships coin and trade. But these surface dwarves are atypical creatures, the ones willing to give up all ties to their kin and sacrifice their rank in order to conduct business.
Below ground, the dwarves are a people obsessed with honor--their own, and that of their family. Most nobles incorporate chainmail even into formal gowns, because slights and insults often turn deadly.
They are a people who revere excellence and strive to achieve it in all things. Even members of the Servant Caste have been elevated to Paragons, usually posthumously, in recognition of remarkable service.
There isn't a dwarf alive who remembers the Deep Roads as they once were. They were the network of tunnels that joined the thaigs together. To be honest, it isn't even right to give them such a simple term as "tunnels": They are works of art, with centuries of planning demonstrated in the geometry of their walls, with the statues of the Paragons that watch over travelers, with the flow of lava that keeps the Deep Roads lit and warm. The cloudgazers up on the surface talk of the Imperial Highway built by the magisters of old, a raised walkway that crossed thousands of miles, something that could only have been built by magic. Perhaps it is comparable to the Deep Roads, although we dwarves didn't need magic.
I suppose it doesn't matter any more. The darkspawn rule the Deep Roads now. When Orzammar sealed off the entrances to the Deep Roads, abandoning everything that lay out there, we handed over the kingdom-that-was to those black bastards forever. To think that there are genlocks crawling over Bownammar now, tearing down our statues and defiling our greatest works! Corruption covers everything we built out there. Every dwarf who goes out and comes back says that it gets worse with each passing year, the foulness spread a little further.
And the cloudgazers think the darkspawn are gone just because they aren't spilling out onto the surface? Huh. One day, when Orzammar is gone for good, they'll find out differently. Those darkspawn won't have anywhere else to go but up, and they'll do it. The surface folk will have themselves a Blight that will never end.
The City of Orzammar
The dwarves are lauded for their craftsmanship, and the city of Orzammar is one of their finest works. Orzammar lies at the heart of the Frostback Mountains, deep underground. The city arcs outward from the royal palace, which is built around a natural lava vent, continually fountaining liquid rock, which both lights and heats the entire cavern.
The topmost tier of Orzammar is home to the noble caste, with their palaces fanning out in both directions from the court of the king, as well as the Shaperate, which serves as a repository for all dwarven knowledge.
The lower tier is the Commons, where the merchant caste holds sway and where the finest works of Orzammar's craftsman are for sale. In the center of the river of lava, connected to the Commons by a causeway, are the Proving Grounds, a sacred arena where the dwarves, by ancient tradition, settle their disputes.
On one side of the fiery river are the ruins of old dwarven palaces, fallen into disrepair, which the locals call Dust Town, now home to the city's casteless. On the other side of the river are the Deep Roads, which once joined the sprawling dwarven empire together, but now, after centuries of darkspawn incursions, are largely sealed off. Nearly all knowledge of this network of underground passages has been lost, even to its builders.
Cut to Kal Sharok
1155 of the Tevinter Imperium will be known as a year of painful decisions, but we cannot waver. The threat we face is the greatest we have known. If we are overrun, all trace of the ancestors' glory will be undone. Orzammar must stand, and it must stand alone. Hormak, Kal-Sharok, Gundaar: We have lost contact, and must assume they are lost to the horde. We must seal the weakest link in our defense, the Deep Roads that lead to our fallen brethren. I have ordered our finest demolitionists to place the charges. I ask that each of you think of those we have lost. They served as the warning that spurred us to action, and I know the Stone will embrace them. They are the foundation of our survival, and they will not be forgotten."
—From a proclamation by High King Threestone
200 years! Kal Sharok lives, you Stone-forsaken deep lords. There is no greater hatred than a brother at your throat!
—Graffiti, author unknown
Legion of the Dead
"Yes, Stone's greetings friend
You will fight ceaselessly in
The Legion of the Dead."
—Motto of the Legion of the Dead.
The Legion accepts all.
So I was told by one of the Legionnaires himself, a dwarf who waited quietly at the entrance to the Deep Roads for the rest of his unit to assemble. They gathered slowly, each equipped with heavy armor and fine weapons, each painted with grim tattoos applied at their funerals the night previous.
For that is the nature of the Legion. They are all dead. Any dwarf may join the Legion, so long as he is willing to give up everything he has. The funeral rites are somber: a final goodbye is said to family and loved ones, any material goods are dispersed to heirs and last words are said, and then it is done. The new Legionnaire marches out into the Deep Roads, never to return. The Legion fights against the darkspawn to the last, striking one final blow against the monsters that have claimed so much of their homeland.
Many join the Legion to clear the slate. Criminals join to avoid punishment. The dishonored join so that their houses and families need not suffer on their behalf. The bankrupted join so their debts might be forgiven. A very few join for a last chance at glory, but the Legion takes them too.
This group hopes to reach the fabled fortress of Bownammar, once the Legion's home, associated with the greatest of their Paragons. Bownammar is a holy place, its loss the last great blow against the dwarven kingdoms, and its recapture would be a glorious signal to all of Orzammar. But capture it or no, all of these warriors will die in the Deep Roads. It is a sobering thought, and I now know why the dwarves say the Legion's charge is the battlefield's most frightening sight. They have nothing left to lose.
House Aeducan, Shield of Orzammar
The Assembly has never named a Paragon with so little disagreement as there was for Paragon Aeducan. No naysayers, only a single abstention. His worthiness was unquestionable, his favor with the Ancestors clear.
But family rumor says that the man himself was deeply troubled. Prone to fits of melancholy and self-doubt, never satisfied with his great achievement in protecting Orzammar, he died cursing that he had not managed to save the outlying thaigs.
Before he rose to Paragon, he was of little note. The Memories tell us that he never entered a single Proving, never sought to elevate his place among the Warrior Caste. He spent most of his years prior to the first Blight fighting skirmishes in the Deep Roads, keeping them free from surface bandits, content to live quietly with his wife and daughters.
When the Blight began, it caught Orzammar in the midst of a vicious inter-house war. Most of the Warrior Caste was caught up in the feuding, for as word of attacks poured in, each great house demanded that the army be sent to defend their thaig, and no house would agree to sacrifice their own holdings for the safety of any others. The Assembly was so utterly tied up with the infighting that the darkspawn spread, unchecked, to the gates of Orzammar herself.
In the chaos, Aeducan grudgingly took command of the armies. He enlisted the aid of the Mining Caste to collapse overrun passages, called upon the Smith Caste to supply them with arms, and bypassed the Assembly and the nobles entirely. With his leadership, Orzammar was saved from annihilation. For his insubordination, he was made Paragon.
Yet he always considered it a defeat.
As I studied among the dwarves, I became aware that their social system was as rigid as the stone that surrounded them. From the lowest servant to the king of Orzammar, each dwarf has a caste, a rigid social standing, which dictates what he may do and how he may do it. What fascinated me then was that the dwarves, stubborn and proud as they may be, have built in a way for even the lowliest dwarf to bypass the caste system and reach prominence. Any dwarf who has made an achievement of significance can be named Paragon, elevating that dwarf above all others.
To become a Paragon is to be recognized as, essentially, a living ancestor. Your words are considered ineffable, and the dwarves liken you unto a god. Your family, those you choose to ascend with you, become the founders of a new line of nobility. Indeed, every existing noble house among the dwarves traces its line back to a founding Paragon. It is a rare thing, however. In my visit, I learned that only one Paragon has been elected in generations: The smith Branka, exalted for her discovery of smokeless coal.
I met the Paragon Branka only once during my stay, and I consider it an odd occasion indeed. Surrounded by those of her house, this ill-tempered woman was draped in the finest clothing and jewelry, and was obviously revered even above the highest nobles--perhaps above even the king--yet she seemed to enjoy none of it. The burden of being a living legend is great, it appears.
Statues of the Paragons are found throughout Orzammar, though nowhere so prominently than in the Hall of Heroes through which one passes on entering from the surface. It is a breathtaking sight to behold, great works of stone all seeming to hold up the ceiling above. It is meant to impress upon visitors to Orzammar of all who have gone before, I think. It is also meant to remind dwarves going to the surface—and thus abandoning their brethren forever—of all they are leaving behind.
As dangerous as it is to mistake a dwarf's caste, it is far more deadly to mistake his alliances among the noble houses of Orzammar. Everyone in the city is allied with someone, whether by blood or by word. The nobles do not engage directly in commerce themselves, as that is the domain of the Merchant Caste, but they do serve as patrons. They invest in shops or in artisans' work, and in turn reap a share of the profits as well as a measure of the credit. Merchants and warriors alike benefit from the service of a prestigious patron.
The relative power of each house is ever-changing. It is usually safe to assume that whichever noble house holds the throne is at the top of the heap, but below that, things grow into a tangled mess. Houses ally with one another by marriage. They earn rank and prestige when combatants loyal to them, or from their own bloodlines, win Provings. They earn it when artisans they patronize become sought-after or well regarded, or when the merchants they invest in become successful. The degrees of power that these achievements confer is so murky, even to the dwarves, that it isn't unusual for nobles to challenge each another to Provings over whose smith forges better belt buckles, or whose servants have the best manners. Nor is it out of the ordinary to find two merchants arguing over whose noble patron has won the most acclaim, for the rank of the patron is the rank of the client.
Nowhere is this more apparent than in the Assembly, where the deshyrs, representatives of each noble house, meet. Although the king technically rules Orzammar, kings are elected by the Assembly, and so each king must work constantly to maintain the support of the deshyrs. Kings who prove unpopular find their heirs deemed unacceptable to inherit the throne. Power then passes to another house.
Valos atredum. In the 23rd year of the reign of King Ragnan Aeducan, an old man of the Servant Caste was accused of stealing a sapphire ring from his employer, Lord Dace. The servant was stripped of his position, he and his family thrown to the streets, and soon after, the servant died.
The son of the disgraced servant challenged Lord Dace to a Proving, declaring that his father had been the victim of a cruel injustice and the ancestors would bear him witness. Lord Dace had no choice but to accept.
On the sacred stone of the Proving Ground, the nobleman faced the servant boy. Lord Dace carried a sword crafted for his own hand and was clad in his great-grandfather's armor. The servant boy had neither armor nor weapon. When the battle began, the boy fought like a whole pack of angry deepstalkers, flinging himself upon the startled lord, wrenching the sword from his hand, and prying at his armor with bare fingers. The boy knocked Lord Dace to the ground and beat him until the lord begged for mercy.
The boy and his family were reinstated to their place in the Dace household, and the virtue of the boy's father was not questioned again. The ancestors had spoken, and no one would question their word.
—As told by Shaper Vortag
- Main article: Codex entry: Dwarven Faith
If the Warden is a dwarf...
We are the Children of the Stone. She supports us, shelters us, offers us the most priceless gifts of the earth. The worthy return to her embrace in death, becoming Ancestors. The unworthy are cast out, unable to rest, that their failings may not weaken the Stone.
We do not accept the empty promises of heaven as the wild elves do, or vie for the favor of absent gods. Instead, we follow in the footsteps of our Paragons—the greatest of our ancestors, warriors, craftsmen, leaders, the greatest examples of lives spent in service to our fellow dwarves. Our Paragons joined with the Stone in life, and now stand watch at our gate, ushering in those surfacers privileged to visit our city. We know there is no greater honor to hope for, no better reward for an exceptional life.
—As told by Shaper Czibor
If the Warden is not a dwarf...
The Chant of Light is almost never heard in the halls of Orzammar. This is hardly surprising, for, unlike the elves, who were literally abandoned by their gods, or the Tevinters, who worshipped dragons, the dwarves have no gods at all.
Even the concept of worship is foreign in Orzammar. Instead, the dwarves seem to venerate "the Stone," a name they give to the earth itself. This seems practical for a people living underground, if perhaps a bit unimaginative.
For guidance in spiritual matters, they turn to their ancestors. These ancestors, who are said to have returned to the Stone, communicate their wishes to the living via brutal trials-by-combat called Provings. The ancestors' collective wisdom is maintained by the Shaperate, which can apparently store records in lyrium itself.
Set above the ancestors, above even kings, are the Paragons—dwarves who have achieved such greatness that they are elevated almost to godhood. These are the great figures holding up the hallway that leads from the surface, the first glimpse of Orzammar that outsiders see.
9:13 Dragon—The Blight is building, though it is years from being named by the surface. But the Memories know the signs. The Legion has lost Bownammar, though in truth, it was lost to the living long ago. The spawn are moving freely and have numbers even the Memories haven't seen. They will surge, release. We will fortify and follow. That is the way, and will always be so. Until we fall, and the surface wonders what has changed.
—From chapter 49 of Stalata Negat: The Stone Unheld: A Commentary on the Roll of Years, by Shaper Erden
7:0 Storm—The wars continue in the depths and the border thaigs are lost. Orzammar fortifies and holds, but the lost ground is not regained and remains dead space, where darkspawn multiply. It was a surge, but the surface was not breached, there was no great archdemon behind them. No Blight was declared, no rallying cry was given. The Wardens slumbered.
After centuries of constant skirmishes, a trend becomes clear. The first line of defense, unacknowledged for centuries, weakens.
—From chapter 40 of Stalata Negat: The Stone Unheld: A Commentary on the Roll of Years, by Shaper Erden
5:12 Exalted--The surface declares the fourth Blight, a number that means nothing to the Stone. In the depths, the events are inverted, our Blight spanning the interim years. Seven generations of shifting lines and darkness. Our Ancestors are the reason the surface kingdoms don't know a darkspawn by sight, why even their eldest have never heard an accounting first-hand. They believe the Blights are defeated by a gathering of allies with singular focus. Eventually, they will be lost by attrition in the depths.
The spawn surges and releases. We fortify and follow, although doubts are raised.
—From chapter 27 of Stalata Negat: The Stone Unheld: A Commentary on the Roll of Years, by Shaper Erden
3:10 Towers—They name it a Blight, the third by their reckoning. It was just "the fight" to our ancestors, continued even though it shifts setting. The hordes that press their border surge and release, spilling across the surface. They fortify and follow. It was not their way to let the enemy rest.
3:25 Towers—The surface kingdoms declare victory. The horde is crushed, the push halted, and celebrations begin as humans thank the skies and their Maker. Beneath their gaze and their feet, the darkspawn retreat to the steps of our thaigs. New front lines are drawn across old. They settle in to breed, the Memories say, as happened twice before, and likely in the darkness before that.
—From chapters 14 and 17 of Stalata Negat: The Stone Unheld: A Commentary on the Roll of Years, by Shaper Erden
Orzammar History: Chapter One
The Memories tell us that our kingdom once reached far beneath the mountains, and that the thaigs were almost beyond counting. Kal-Sharok was the capital then, home to all the noble houses, and Orzammar was simply the home of the Miner and Smith castes.
It was with the Tevinter Imperium that things changed. Paragon Garal moved the seat of power to Orzammar to more closely oversee the trade that began with the surface. It seemed that our people were entering a new age of prosperity.
The Memories hold no explanations for the coming of the darkspawn, only questions. At first, they were rumors, noises in the Deep Roads, a lost traveler here and there. The Warrior Caste sent men to patrol the road, and thought the matter settled. We did not know that while we searched for them, they were engaged in a search of their own.
The darkspawn poured out of the Deep Roads like smoke, then, and the Warrior Caste struggled to hold them back. Countless thaigs were lost in that first Blight. But, as ever, in the worst moments of our need, a Paragon arose. Paragon Aeducan led the defenses of Orzammar, and the dark horde was beaten back.
The cost of victory, however, was great. Much of the Deep Roads were sealed to hold back the darkspawn, cutting off thaigs and even whole cities forever.
Orzammar History: Chapter Two
We were losing the war against the darkspawn. Slowly. A few men at a time, but losing all the same. The Warrior Caste was dwindling with each generation as more able-bodied men perished in their prime without fathering sons. With each generation, more of the Deep Roads had to be sealed, more thaigs lost forever. The kings of Orzammar watched, and wondered how long it would be until nothing remained of our people but the Memories.
And then Paragon Caridin arose from the Smith Caste with a new weapon: Golems. Giant soldiers of living stone and metal, each one was an army. With the Paragon's golems, we began to retake the lands we had lost. For a while, there was hope that victory, final victory, was coming.
But at the height of the war, Paragon Caridin disappeared, and with him, the means to make golems. Several forays were made into the Deep Roads to search for the Paragon, but nothing was ever found. Over time, the golems we had were damaged beyond repair, and we began our slide, once again, toward extinction.
Representing the furthest point of encroachment by the ancient Tevinter Imperium into the barbarian lands of the southeast, the fortress of Ostagar was once one of the most important defensive holdings south of the Waking Sea. It stood at the edge of the Korcari Wilds watching for any signs of invasion by the barbarians known today as the Chasind wilders. Straddling a narrow pass in the hills, the fortress needed to be by-passed to reach the fertile lowlands to the north and proved to be exceedingly difficult for the wilders to attack because of its naturally defensible position.
Like most imperial holdings in the south, Ostagar was abandoned after Tevinter's collapse during the first Blight. It was successfully sacked by the Chasind wilders and then, as the Chasind threat dwindled following the creation of the modern Ferelden nation, fell to ruin completely.
It has remained unmanned for four centuries, though most of the walls still stand—as does the tall Tower of Ishal, named after the great archon that ordered its construction. Ostagar remains a testament to the magical power of the Imperium that created it.
Par Vollen: The Occupied North
History calls this the First Qunari War, but it was mostly a one-sided bloodbath, with the Qunari advancing far into the mainland. Qunari warriors in glittering steel armor carved through armies with ease. Their cannons, the likes of which our ancestors had never seen, reduced city walls to rubble in a matter of seconds.
Stories of Qunari occupation vary greatly. It is said they dismantled families and sent captives to "learning camps" for indoctrination into their religion. Those who refused to cooperate disappeared to mines or construction camps.
For every tale of suffering, however, there is another of enlightenment deriving from something called the "Qun." This is either a philosophical code or a written text that governs all aspects of Qunari life, perhaps both. One converted Seheran reported pity for those who refused to embrace the Qun, as if the conquerors had led him to a sort of self-discovery. "For all my life, I followed the Maker wherever his path led me," he wrote, "but in the Qun I have found the means to travel my own path."
It has been said that the most complete way to wipe out a people is not with blades but with books. Thankfully, a world that had repelled four Blights would not easily bow to a foreign aggressor. And so the Exalted Marches began.
The greatest advantage of the Chantry-led forces was the Circle of Magi. For all their technology, the Qunari appeared to harbor great hatred for magic. Faced with cannons, the Chantry responded with lightning and balls of fire.
The Qunari armies lacked the sheer numbers of humanity. So many were slain at Marnas Pell, on both sides, that the Veil is said to be permanently sundered, the ruins still plagued by restless corpses. But each year, the Chantry pushed further and further into the Qunari lines, although local converts to the Qun proved difficult to return to Andraste's teachings.
By the end of the Storm Age, the Qunari were truly pushed back. Rivain was the only human land that retained the Qunari religion after being freed, and its rulers attempted to barter a peace. Most human lands signed the Llomerryn Accord, excepting the Tevinter Imperium. It is a shaky peace that has lasted to this day.
—From The Exalted Marches: An Examination of Chantry Warfare, by Sister Petrine, Chantry scholar
Anyone who travels far enough to the north will eventually encounter the Qunari: White-haired, bronze-skinned giants, a head again taller than a man, with frighteningly calm demeanors and a sort of sparkling fire behind their eyes.
For quite a long time, people believed that all Qunari were male, or that their men and women were simply indistinguishable. It was not until the Blessed Age that diplomats from Rivain were allowed, however briefly, to visit Par Vollen, and there they discovered that Qunari females do exist in abundance, and are quite easily recognized. The Rivaini say that Qunari have a certain kindness to them, or at least a conspicuous lack of cruelty, although I did not observe the creatures closely enough to evaluate their character.
- Main article: Codex entry: Redcliffe
King Calenhad Theirin once famously declared, "The fate of Redcliffe is the fate of all Ferelden." Certainly, the castle is the first and last defense for the sole land route into Ferelden, and the country has never fallen to any force that did not first capture Redcliffe.
The castle, which despite being three times captured is popularly described as "unassailable," also guards one of the largest and most prosperous towns in Ferelden. Redcliffe village is well situated near the mountain pass to Orzammar and the Orlesian border, and so serves as a center of foreign trade. For these reasons, Redcliffe is accounted an arling despite the smallness of the domain.
The inhabitants of Redcliffe village are primarily fishermen or merchants who ship dwarven goods through the pass from Orlais to Denerim. When the entire village smells of smoked fish on certain late autumn mornings, the merchants in their finery do their utmost to pretend otherwise.
- Main article: Codex entry: Rivain
The Chant of Light never truly reached the ears of these people. The years they spent under the thumb of the Qunari left most of the country zealous followers of the Qun. But resistance to the Chant goes deeper than the Qunari War. The Rivaini refuse to be parted from their seers, wise women who are in fact hedge mages, communicating with spirits and actually allowing themselves to become possessed. The Chantry prohibition against such magical practices violates millennia of local tradition.
—From In Pursuit of Knowledge: The Travels of A Chantry Scholar, by Brother Genitivi
The Tevinter Imperium
- Main article: Codex entry: The Tevinter Imperium
One can see that Minrathous was once the center of the world. The vestiges of her power and artistry yet stand. But they are buried in the layers of filth that the Imperium's decadence has accumulated over the ages. The magocracy live in elegant stone towers, literally elevated above the stench of the slaves and peasants below. The outskirts of Minrathous are awash in a sea of refugees turned destitute by the never-ending war between the Imperium and the Qunari.
Legend of the Juggernaut
The arm of the Imperium is long.
Once it reached even this forest, in a time when the barbarian tribes of the Clayne still ruled the land. The Tevinter magisters fought to take it from them—inch by inch, if need be, using terrible magic. The Magister Harach brought an army to this forest, led by Alaric, his friend and general. For Alaric, Harach fashioned a suit of the finest armor, infused it with lyrium and his own blood magic, and named it "Juggernaut" after the unstoppable giant golems guarding the gates of Minrathous. Thus armed did Alaric win many victories against the Clayne.
When defeat came, it came from within. Alaric's own lieutenants rose up against him, jealous of the favor he had curried with the magisters and eager to take the Juggernaut armor from him. Alaric was slain, and as each successor gained the armor, the other lieutenants turned against him in stead. The Tevinter outpost fell to vicious infighting. In a fury, Magister Harach voyaged to the outpost and slew the last three lieutenants.
The Clayne, however, were already approaching the outpost in force. The barbarian chieftain of the Clayne desired the fabled armor himself, and even with all his power, Harach could not hope to stand against them all. Instead, Harach used the last of his own life force to cast a spell of blood magic that bound demons to the bodies of the three dead lieutenants as well as Harach's own lifeless corpse. These bound revenants hid the pieces of the Juggernaut armor, and although the barbarians sacked the outpost, the chieftain found neither the armor nor the revenants.
The Juggernaut armor's legend lives on, and more than one brave soul has ventured into the depths of the Brecilian Forest in search, never to return.
Geography of Thedas
- Main article: Codex entry: Geography of Thedas
Thedas is bounded to the east by the Amaranthine Ocean, to the west by Tirashan Forest and the Hunterhorn Mountains, to the south by the snowy wastes that lie beyond the Orkney Mountains, and to the north by Donark Forest.
The word "Thedas" is Tevinter in origin, originally used to refer to lands that bordered the Imperium. As the Imperium lost its stranglehold on conquered nations, more and more lands became Thedas, until finally people applied the name to the entire continent.
The northern part of Thedas is divided amongst the Anderfels, the Tevinter Imperium, Antiva, and Rivain, with the islands held by the Qunari just off the coast. Central Thedas consists of the Free Marches, Nevarra, and Orlais, with Ferelden to the south.
What lies beyond the snowy wastes is a mystery. The freezing temperatures and barren land have kept even the most intrepid cartographers at bay. Similarly, the western reaches of the Anderfels have never been fully explored, even by the Anders themselves. We do not know if the dry steppes are shadowed by mountains, or if they extend all the way to a nameless sea.
There must be other lands, continents or islands, perhaps across the Amaranthine or north of Par Vollen, for the Qunari arrived in Thedas from somewhere, but beyond that deduction, we know nothing.
Vhenadahl: The Tree of the People
- Main article: Codex entry: Vhenadahl: The Tree of the People
Mostly the old ways are gone. Each generation forgets a little more of the old tongue, a little more of the traditions. And the few things we keep become simple habits, the meaning long since faded.
So it is with the vhenadahl, the tree of the people. Every alienage has one, I'm told. Or they used to. When I was a little girl, my mother told me the tree was a symbol of Arlathan, but not even she knew more. Keeping the vhenadahl is just a habit, now. Many cities have let theirs wither and die, then chopped them up for firewood. No great loss.
The Grey Wardens
- Main article: Codex entry: The Grey Wardens
The first Blight had already raged for 90 years. The world was in chaos. A god had risen, twisted and corrupted. The remaining gods of Tevinter were silent, withdrawn. What writing we have recovered from those times is filled with despair, for everyone believed, from the greatest archons to the lowliest slaves, that the world was coming to an end.
At Weisshaupt fortress in the desolate Anderfels, a meeting transpired. Soldiers of the Imperium, seasoned veterans who had known nothing their entire lifetimes except hopeless war, came together. When they left Weisshaupt, they had renounced their oaths to the Imperium. They were soldiers no longer: They were the Grey Wardens.
The Wardens began an aggressive campaign against the Blight, striking back against the darkspawn, reclaiming lands given up for lost. The Blight was far from over, but their victories brought notice, and soon they received aid from every nation in Thedas.
They grew in number as well as reputation. Finally, in the year 992 of the Tevinter Imperium, upon the Silent Plains, they met the archdemon Dumat in battle. A third of all the armies of northern Thedas were lost to the fighting, but Dumat fell and the darkspawn fled back underground.
Even that was not the end.
The Imperium once revered seven gods: Dumat, Zazikel, Toth, Andoral, Razikale, Lusacan, and Urthemiel. Four have risen as archdemons. The Grey Wardens have kept watch through the ages, well aware that peace is fleeting, and that their war continues until the last of the dragon-gods is gone.
The Korcari Wilds
- Main article: Codex entry: The Korcari Wilds
It is said that in the midst of the Black Age, when werewolves stalked the lands of Ferelden in numbers that kept every farmholder indoors and a hound on every doorstep, a powerful arl of the Alamarri peoples stood and declared that he would put an end to the threat. His arling stood on the border of the dark forest on the southern border of the Ferelden Valley, and he claimed that the werewolves used the forest to launch their midnight assaults on humanity.
For 20 years, this arl led an army of warriors and hounds deep into the forest. In his hunt for the werewolves, he slew not only every wolf he came upon, but also every member of the Chasind wilder folk. Any one of them, he said, could harbor a demon inside and thus be a werewolf in disguise. For 20 years, the forest rang with screams, and the rivers ran red.
The tales say that an old Chasind woman found her sons all dead at the arl's blades. She pulled one of those very blades from one son's heart and plunged it into her own chest, cursing the arl's name as she did so. Where her blood touched the ground, a mist began to rise. It spread and spread until it was everywhere in the forest. The arl's army became lost, and it is said that they died there. Others say they wander still. The ruins of his arling stand to this day, filled with the ghosts of women waiting eternally for their husbands to return.
The forest of the legend is, of course, the Korcari Wilds. There are as many legends about the great southern forest as there are shadows, or so the saying goes. The Chasind wilder folk have made their home there since mankind first came to these lands, and the wildlands spread as far into the south as anyone has ventured. Beyond the mists are vast tracts of snow, white-capped mountains, and entire fields of ice. It is a land too cold for mankind to survive, yet the Chasind eke out an existence even there, and they tell of horrors beyond the Wilds that the lowland folk could not begin to comprehend.
To most, Ferelden simply ends with the Korcari Wilds: There is nothing beyond. The Wilds is a land of great trees, wet marshes and dangerous monsters. What more need be said?
- Main article: Codex entry: Darkspawn
If the Warden is a dwarf...
The surfacers claim that the first darkspawn fell from heaven. They spin tales of magic and sin. But the Children of the Stone know better. The darkspawn rose up out of the earth. For it was in the Deep Roads they first appeared. Creatures in our own likeness, armed and armored, but with no more intelligence than tezpadam, bestial and savage.
At first they were few, easily hunted and slain by our warriors. But in the recesses of the Deep Roads, they grew in numbers and in courage. Our distant thaigs came under attack, and now it was the army, not a few warriors, being sent to deal with the creatures. Victories still came easily, though, and we thought the threat would soon be over.
We were wrong.
Those who had sought to claim
Heaven by violence destroyed it. What was
Golden and pure turned black.
Those who had once been mage-lords,
The brightest of their age,
Were no longer men, but monsters.
No one knows where the darkspawn come from. A dark mockery of men, in the darkest places they thrive, growing in numbers as a plague of locusts will. In raids, they will often take captives, dragging their victims alive into the Deep Roads, but most evidence suggests that these are eaten. Like spiders, it seems darkspawn prefer their food still breathing. Perhaps they are simply spawned by the darkness. Certainly, we know that evil has no trouble perpetuating itself.
The last Blight was in the Age of Towers, striking once again at the heart of Tevinter, spreading south into Orlais and east into the Free Marches. The plagues spread as far as Ferelden, but the withering and twisting of the land stopped well beyond our borders. Here, darkspawn have never been more than the stuff of legends. In the northern lands, however, particularly Tevinter and the Anderfels, they say darkspawn haunt the hinterlands, preying on outlying farmers and isolated villages, a constant threat.
The Blights - A letter from Paragon Aeducan to his wife
My dear Anika,
I would not worry about the Assembly: Let the nobles sit together and argue over whose house owns the grandest thaig. It keeps them from panicking, which they would surely do otherwise, and prevents them from making a greater nuisance of themselves. War is the business of warriors.
I would say that the enemy's strategy seems to be changing, but they never appeared to have a strategy before, beyond destroying everything in their path. For weeks, their numbers appeared to be dwindling. There was talk that perhaps we were getting close to wiping them out. We could not have been more wrong. For today we came upon the body of their main force. I cannot give words to it, Anika. I have never before seen so much death in one place. There were darkspawn beyond counting, and at the heart of the throng a great beast, as tall as the palace of Orzammar, with breath of fire. A Paragon of darkspawn, perhaps, for they seemed to pay it deference.
They were leaving. Marching toward the mine shafts which lead to the surface. But I knew when I beheld them that once they have devoured what lies above us, they will be back.
—From The Letters of Paragon Aeducan